Review by zero829

"The best fightin game is just as I remember, but now with online and a new cheap price!"

The fighting game industry has been led by Capcom and SNK for as long as I can remember. Almost ten years ago, SNK took notice of the Street Fighter 3 franchise and decided that they should release a game of their own with similar changes like that of Third Strike. That game was Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

Garou takes place about ten years after the events of the last Fatal Fury game. The long time villain, Geese, has perished and Terry has adopted his son and taught him how to fight amongst other things. Terry is the only returning character from the Fatal fury games. Everyone else is entirely new as well as two new villains emerging to cause more trouble. The story is great for a fighting game. It has an unusually gritty style to it that makes it more enjoyable than your typical tournament. It's nice to see the difference in Terry too. Long time fans of him should be very impressed to see that their hero has only gotten greater over the years.

So let's talk about the characters. Garou essentially has ten characters and two bosses to choose from. One thing I quickly noted and liked about this game was that both bosses are playable and not only that, they are entirely balanced too. They aren't even the best characters in the game so you can freely enjoy using them. Speaking of balance, the game follows a similar stride. It's unusually balanced. While this isn't Guilty Gear X2 balanced, you will quickly note that every character has a fair chance in this game. Even the tier lists constantly seem to alter who is in the highest tiers. It's good to see. The best characters are often argued between a handful of them. That's essentially half the cast. Unlike with other fighting games, you will actually see just about everyone used.

One thing to note about this game is that despite there being a very small amount of characters, each and every one of them feels incredibly unique in appearance, personality, and game play. I often forget that there really is so few characters because it ends up feeling as though there are an endless amount. These characters scream personality. They each display a great deal of individuality not commonly seen in fighting games (where you often have three or four of essentially the same character just slightly different). I would find it hard to believe that someone plays this game and ends up not loving at least two characters in it. The roster is quite possibly the best I have ever seen in a fighting game. The character design is nothing to scoff at either. It's very impressive. Instead of just going with stereotypes, the Garou crew created characters that were actually interesting on all levels.

While Terry is the only returning guy, you can see a good chunk of the Fatal Fury cast within the new characters. For instance, there is a ninja boy in this game that features one or two of Andy's moves. This is a great way to please long time fans who may have been disappointed in the lack of their favorite characters. Another character, Marco/Butt (depending on the region), features a move selection very similar to Robert and Ryo. In fact, he uses the Kyokugen fighting style. Little things like this go a long way in the game and it amazes me how they manage to balance diversity with familiarity like this.

Now on to the game play. This game plays so smooth I cannot believe it. Every character moves like a work of art. The mechanics make sense to say the least. It's very easy to pick it up and just go straight with it. The game features a unique system called the TOP. Basically, you pick a third of your health bar to have this TOP meter in it and when you are in that part of the health, you gradually regain health, you get a new TOP attack, and you deal out more damage. This is an awesome system to include that really makes or breaks how you play the game. Being in TOP can vastly change how you want to use your character. The increased attack allows for a shy fighter to go all out while the regaining health really helps the more defensive orientated players. The TOP attack is also an effective way to guard break and often do damage. There is a lot to do in this game. Similar to games such as Street Fighter 3, you can do a form of parrying known as "Just Defending." This is done by holding back (so blocking) the instant an attack hits. Notice that you do not have to press forward. Just defending truly compliments this game. In other games, I felt as though the inclusion of parrying was disappointing or out of place to say the least, but I can tell that it was a key factor in the game as a whole for Garou. Every character can effectively use the just defend and none of them are rendered useless to it either. Every character has at least two supers and there are two super bars allowing for a weak and strong version of the super. There are universal feints and overhead attacks that allow the system to sort of connect together and every character also features at least one attack that can, essentially, be "broken." By this, I refer to canceling the attack to continue on with another. All of these little things sum up to create what I would call the best fighting game system I have seen.

At first glance, the most impressive thing about this game is the visuals. This game really surprised me with its look. Throwing out a super results in beautiful thunder striking as you shoot out the finishing blow or speed lines coming from every direction as you crash someone into the ground. The character sprites are incredibly life-like and fluidness of this kind had only been seen in Street Fighter 3 so far. This game is truly beautiful. It has one of the greatest art directions to ever grace a fighting game. It features a both gritty and warm look to it that makes it very easy on the eyes. Nothing about it feels random either. The characters compliment there stages and the stages compliment their characters. Every story is relevant to their character and even the character selection screen screams "personality."

Even the soundtrack in this game is brilliant. It's actually one of my favorites around. Every stage has a very unique theme to them and the song goes well with the character and theme. I often find myself humming these songs even nine years after their debut. All of the voices are great too. The various yells and taunts are all unique and well executed. There is very little to actually complain about in this game.

What makes this port so great? Well it's essentially arcade perfect. You can customize your controls and you have all the modes you could want in a fighting game from survival mode to story mode and to, of course, versus mode. You can even go online where ranking and normal player matches are possible. Fighting games have always had a problem with disconnection online, but thankfully, a disconnector in this game instantly gets a loss while their opponent gains a win. This is a great way to sort of reward those who have to put up with the disconnection while punishing the one that did it. It's also not so severe that it would completely screw someone over if it were to, somehow, happen on accident. As of writing this review, I have yet to actually experience any noticeable lag. The community had been very nice as well so while I cannot comment on the future, I do give two thumbs up to the present.

So what's bad about Garou? It's taken me nine years, but the only complaint I have been able to come up with is that this game has yet to get a sequel. Overall, you cannot go wrong with Garou. If you love fighting games, then here is the best of the genre. If you have yet to play a fighter, now is the time to truly try one. If you have been disappointed in the characters, graphics, or game play of other fighting games, you finally get a chance to play one that does all aspects right. Garou is truly a shining inclusion in fighting game history. Even nine years after coming out, I still relive the enjoyment with every match I play. To make things even better, this port comes with online play and retails for only 800 points. How could I give this game anything, but a perfect score?

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/24/09

Game Release: Garou: Mark of the Wolves (US, 06/24/09)

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